UMVIM Presence in Haiti to Double in 2011; Cal-Nev Teams Have Openings

January 11, 2011

By Phil Bandy
CA-NV UMVIM Interim Director

As we start the new year, I want to update you on the Methodist volunteer response in Haiti. This last year United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) teams traveled to Haiti and made good progress, and we have great plans for the year ahead. We need your ongoing support in this ministry – and even more, we need you to join us in traveling to Haiti.
 
By the end of 2010, thanks to the UMVIM Haiti Response Plan, 82 volunteer teams had served in Haiti. One of those teams (in September) was from the California-Nevada Annual Conference. A systematic program is in place for coordinating and supporting all UMVIM teams going to Haiti, and the team spots for the first six months of 2011 are already booked. Of the 170 teams scheduled for this year, seven are from Cal-Nevada, and each of them is being led by a member of our September UMVIM team – so all the team leaders are Haiti-experienced and trained. And yes, we do still have openings on most of our teams!
 
Please see the list below to find a date which matches your availability.
 
2011 UMVIM Teams from California-Nevada Annual Conference Traveling to Haiti:
 
Feb 14-23, 2011, East Bay Area Team
Warren McGuffin, team leader
 
Mar 9-18, 2011, East Bay Area Team
Stephen Elliott, team leader (was Phil Bandy)
 
Mar 27-Apr 7, 2011, California-Nevada Annual Conference Team
Suellen Rowlison, R.N., team leader
 
April 6-15 2011, Central Delta Area Team
Burr Bruce, team leader
 
June 15-24, 2011, California-Nevada Annual Conference Teachers and Students Team
Bruce Burr, team leader
 
May 8-16, 2011, South Bay Area Team
Leslie Carmichael, team leader
 
June 5-13, 2011, South Bay Area Team
Hal Taylor, team leader
 
August, California-Nevada Annual Conference Team
Jennifer Murdock, team leader
 
November 2011, Fresno Area Team
Jay Rosenlieb, team leader
 
The cost for each team member varies between $1700 and $2500, depending on the duration, destination, and other funds raised. Each team may qualify for a matching funds grant of $3500 from UMCOR after that amount is raised, and that may be factored into the team member costs.
 
Safety in Haiti
 
As a prospective Haiti volunteer team member, you (or your family) likely have some unease about safety in Haiti. In recent months we watched with concern as first storms, then cholera, then election protests dominated the news from Haiti. Such events are scary and were disruptive to our work there, but we still continued work on schools, homes, and churches all over Haiti. We could do this safely in part because the dangers as reported by the media do not reflect the reality of the situation in Haiti, and in part because UMVIM has done a great job of managing the safety of our teams. Let me explain.
 
The election in Haiti did not go well in December and the Haitians voiced their anger; people poured into the streets to protest against the election results as announced by the government. A runoff was expected between two candidates: Ms. Mirlande Manigat and Mr. Michel Martelly. Instead, outgoing President Preval’s hand-picked successor, Mr. Jude Célestin, was declared to be the second-place candidate and Mr. Martelly was cut out of the runoff. There is widespread belief that voting fraud was involved. Despite our high hopes that the politics in Haiti might have changed somehow because of the quake, the demonstrations and protests were predictable and understandable, but did not put any of our volunteers at significant risk.
 
One Methodist volunteer, Gath, summed it up nicely in December, after the work of his team was disrupted when roadblocks prevented crew members from getting to the project. Gath said he didn't feel in danger, because "They're upset at the government, not foreigners. They were fighting what they believe was unjust." However, as a precaution, UMVIM teams will not be in Haiti during the runoff election period of January 16-27.
 
Another major concern is cholera, but prevention is simple: to drink only bottled water. Unlike the flu or even the common cold, cholera is not spread through personal contact or coughing, but through unclean drinking water. See the latest health update from the CDC. Please note that the precautions for preventing cholera are standard precautions which all UMVIM teams already take.
 
While it certainly is OK for someone to decide not go to Haiti out of concern over safety, I feel strongly that you should have all the facts, before making your decision – so please connect with me if you feel the need. And if you do decide not to go to Haiti right now, please generously support the teams which will be going. You may directly support one of the teams, or donate to the Haiti scholarship fund, set up by the Conference UMVIM office. To make such a donation, make your check payable to the California-Nevada Annual Conference and designate "Advance 803 – Haiti Scholarships" on the memo line. 
 
Please also join us in prayer support for each team as they travel.
 
Information for volunteers
 
Find out more on the Volunteer Opportunities page on the Conference website at cnumc.org/volunteeropportunities.
 
(Or navigate there by clicking on "Ministries" on the navigation bar at the top of the Home Page, then click on "UM Volunteers in Mission" – found in the menu on the right side of the page, and then on "Volunteer Opportunities" – again, found in the menu on the right.)
 
Team registration forms may be downloaded from the Insurance, Applications, etc. page of the UMVIM section of the Conference website, and submitted to the team leader.
 
For the most timely information about Haiti, please subscribe to the General Board of Global Ministries' Haiti Response Plan newsletter and monitor Haiti UMVIM Facebook
 
Making a difference
 
Our UMVIM teams do hands-on service that makes a difference. Please take a few minutes to view one man's Haiti story: UMCOR consultant the Rev. Jim Gulley explains why he cannot abandon Haiti, even after being trapped during the earthquake in January 2010. "I needed to go back and to re-engage," he says.
 
The people we serve in Haiti are the true heart of Haiti and you will find them to be a truly loving people. Join one of the UMVIM teams listed above and come meet them!